At Wednesday morning’s press preview of New York’s newest cultural center, the Shed, architect Liz Diller—whose firm, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, was lead architect on the project, with Rockwell Group, collaborating architect—recalled how the design process started with an observation.
“Arts in New York are siloed,” she said. “Visual arts from performing arts, performing arts from one another—dance, theater, music. That’s not how artists think today. But what about tomorrow? How are artists going to be thinking in a decade, two decades, three decades? The only answer is we cannot know.”
The design team’s response was create an “anti-institutional institution,” explained Diller, one that would house multiple disciplines under one roof, in a building “so flexible that it could change even its size on demand.”
“Our goal, Liz’s and my goal for this space, from day one, was to create an institution that would embrace the widest range of mediums in one structure,” said David Rockwell.
More than a decade after those first conversations in 2008—and after much “reconfiguring, stretching, problem solving, fretting, drinking,” joked Rockwell—the Shed is complete and opening to the public on Friday, April 5.
The Shed’s building, recently named the Bloomberg Center in honor of a $75 million donation toward its construction from former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, is located on the west side of Manhattan, on West 30th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues—an area already swarming with High Line-goers, and now even more abuzz with the recent opening of Hudson Yards and the honeycomb-like Vessel by Thomas Heatherwick.
The structure’s most notable feature is its telescoping outer shell (watch a construction video and animation of the movement below), which can be deployed over a plaza, forming a 17,000-square-foot space that can accommodate an audience of more than 2000. There are two floors of flexible gallery space, a 500-seat theater, and the top-floor Tisch Skylights room.
The Shed’s inaugural season opens with a five-night concert series called Soundtrack of America. Conceived and directed by British filmmaker Steve McQueen, the work, which features 25 artists (five each evening), celebrates the impact of African American music on American culture from the 17th century to today. “The big step forward in this show—and in a way it exemplifies our care for all kinds of artists and therefore all kinds of audience—is that the people who will be performing on the stage are emerging talents,” said the Shed’s artistic director and CEO Alex Poots. “So in one commission we bring together a very established, and very well-known talent, along with unknown talent.”
Other new work to be introduced this spring includes Reich Richter Pärt, an immersive live performance installation comprising visual art, music, and film, based on the work of artist Gerhard Richter in collaboration with composer Steve Reich; a show by conceptual artist Trisha Donnelly; and a spoken and sung performance piece by poet Anne Carson called Norma Jeane Baker of Troy.
Animation courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Video courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro